New plastic eating protein could save expat beach environments

Published:  17 Apr at 6 PM
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Tagged: Spain, UK, Thailand, England
The amazing, accidental discovery of a protein which eats plastic could save oceans, undersea life and expat beach destinations in Spain and across the world.

Scarcely a week goes by without reports of once-pristine beaches being ruined by tons of plastic bottles, bags and other detritus, and conservationists fear for fish eating tiny plastic pellets now floating in oceans worldwide. Expats living in Spain and other Mediterranean countries have their own concerns, as discarded plastic covers once-pristine beaches.

Recently, one expat couple living in La Mata were enjoying a quiet drink at a beachside café when a sudden squall sent a whirlwind full of plastic bags onto the sand, into the sea and onto a jetty. The couple and another couple who’d just arrived began collecting the bags, which were being blown from the site of a local market. They managed to fill three large containers with the rubbish, just a drop in the ocean compared with the amount left along the road and already in the sea. Obviously, no local council employees had been sent to clear the market’s debris, now was there any sign of a refuse lorry.

Given that this scenario is being repeated on beaches all over the world on a daily basis in spite of warnings as to the environmental effects of plastic, a solution is long overdue. Thailand’s beaches are another example of lack of care by local authorities, with smoking on Phuket’s beaches now forbidden but rubbish and plastics being ignored. However there’s a possibility that the answer to biodegrading plastics has been found, albeit via a happy accident by a British laboratory at Portsmouth University.

The inadvertent breakthrough came during tests of a naturally-occurring bacterium discovered at a Japanese recycling centre, with the X-rays used forcing mutations in a powerful enzyme. The mutant was discovered to have a supercharged ability to act on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) a form of plastic widely used in the food and drink industry which lasts in the environment for literally hundreds of years before it degrades. The research team are now working to improve and strengthen the enzyme in the hope that it will provide a recycling process for the world and its ocean-wide mountains of discarded plastics.
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